California Healthline Highlights Recent Hospital News
The Alameda Health Care District board last week approved a $53 million budget for fiscal year 2006 that could eliminate Alameda Hospital's deficit, the Contra Costa Times reports. The budget includes $5.7 million generated by a parcel tax Alameda voters approved in 2002. The hospital's improved financial performance largely can be attributed to a five-year agreement with Kaiser Permanente that will result in an additional 3,700 surgeries annually and $6.87 million in revenue (Fuller, Contra Costa Times, 7/15).
Antelope Valley Hospital officials on Monday said Palmdale's pending transfer of property to Pennsylvania-based Universal Health Services to build a competing hospital is an "'unwarranted' gift of public funds," the Los Angeles Daily News reports. AVH officials also alleged that UHS' plan does not ensure that the facility will have an emergency department with a doctor on duty at all times, a claim UHS denied. Construction is under way in Palmdale on the new $82 million hospital. AVH officials have discussed the possibility of using eminent domain to halt construction (Maeshiro, Los Angeles Daily News, 7/19).
California in September is scheduled to open its first new state mental hospital in 50 years -- a $360 million facility that will house 1,500 sex offenders who otherwise would be released from prison back into the community, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports. Coalinga State Hospital's 29 housing units offer prisoners a barber shop, post office, pharmacy and gymnasium. Hospital residents will be released to the community after a five-phase program if a judge determines that they are no longer a threat (AP/Contra Costa Times, 7/17).
A plan to rebuild Laguna Honda Hospital with 1,200 beds should be modified to allow the city to provide more care to residents in their homes and smaller community-based centers, according to a report San Francisco Controller Ed Harrington released on Thursday, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The report was based on a study of San Francisco's long-term care system by Health Management Associates.
The HMA study recommends that San Francisco build three separate facilities with no more than 200 beds each, rather than one new facility, to replace the current Laguna Honda facility. Patients with different health care needs could be treated in different facilities, according to the report.
The study also indicated that "a significant number" of patients currently treated at Laguna Honda do not require that level of care and could be cared for more effectively in lower-cost home care or community care settings.
Service Employees International Union Local 250, which represents many Laguna Honda workers, opposes the report's recommendations.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is expected to hold a hearing to address the report in the next month (Gordon, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/22).
Attorney General Bill Lockyer's (D) office on Friday approved a plan for the board of directors of St. Rose Hospital to purchase the hospital from its parent company Via Christi Health System for about $22 million, the East Bay Business Times reports (East Bay Business Times, 7/18).
Under the terms of consent, St. Rose is required to maintain emergency medical services and obstetrical services at current levels for five years. St. Rose also must operate the Silva Pediatric Medical and Dental Clinic at current levels of service -- or arrange for another organization to manage the clinic -- for at least five years. The agreement requires St. Rose to provide an average of $1.5 million annually in charity care for at least five years (East Bay Business Times, 7/18). The attorney general's office removed one condition that would have required the hospital to spend $300,000 yearly for community benefits services for "medically underserved residents," according to the Oakland Tribune (O'Brien, Oakland Tribune, 7/16).
After reviewing several proposals, San Jose city officials on July 15 recommended that the San Jose Medical Center site be converted into a retirement home and separate health care clinic, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Under one proposal, Cornerstone Affiliates would partner with its subsidiary American Baptist Homes of the West and Greystone Communities of Texas to build a $200 million retirement facility with as many as 275 independent apartments, 50 assisted-living units, 20 support suites and 45 skilled nursing beds. Cornerstone said it would obtain funding through tax-exempt bonds and the city would not have to contribute financially.
A separate proposal by the not-for-profit Gardner Family Health Network would relocate the St. James Health Center to about two or three acres of the San Jose site. Gardner currently provides treatment to low-income residents but indicated it would be able to expand services.
Cornerstone and Gardner told city officials they could collaborate on a project if council members approve their respective proposals.
None of the six recommended proposals included a plan to open another hospital or 24-hour urgent care clinic, leading the four city officials and three independent experts who reviewed the proposals to recommend looking for other uses for the site.
The San Jose City Council will consider the recommendations Aug. 16 at a public meeting (Woolfolk, San Jose Mercury News, 7/16).
Simi Valley Hospital administrators on July 15 notified employees that the hospital's mental health unit would close within 60 days, after state regulators and city and county officials are notified and the remaining patients are discharged and referred to other facilities, the Los Angeles Times reports.
According to a letter by SVH President Margaret Peterson, the "32-bed unit, which has been struggling financially for the past five years, has been averaging a daily census of 10 patients, sometimes (having) as few as four patients per day."
SVH Vice President Paula Lewis, who oversees the unit, said many of the unit's 40 workers will be assigned to other duties in the hospital and others might be offered positions at hospitals owned by SVH's parent company Adventist Health (Griggs, Los Angeles Times, 7/16).
In other news, government officials on Wednesday said that SVH has paid about $3.7 million to settle allegations of submitting false claims to Medicare, the Ventura County Star reports. Authorities alleged that the hospital regularly submitted bills for more intensive treatments than were provided to patients.
Hospital officials did not acknowledge any wrongdoing in the settlement (Gonzalez, Ventura County Star, 7/21).
Fresno County Emergency Medical Services on July 13 temporarily lifted a two-year-old hospital diversion ban after the Level 1 trauma center at University Medical Center experienced a large influx of patients, the Fresno Bee reports. The diversion lasted 95 minutes.
Director of EMS Daniel Lynch said the county's no-diversion policy has not been repealed, adding, "We made a decision to allow UMC to go on temporary diversion for medical patients in order to protect their ability to receive trauma" care. He said all hospitals cooperated during the diversion.
John Zelezny, senior vice president for Community Medical Centers and interim chief operating official, said, "At mid-morning, there were more than 70 patients waiting to be seen in the emergency department at [UMC]. By early afternoon, there were 115. To put that in perspective, on a busy day we might have 40 patients or so waiting to be seen" (Correa, Fresno Bee, 7/20).